The Town Hall has put out a call for volunteers to join a Hackney Older Citizens Committee (HOCC) which would represent and advocate for their age group in the community.

HOCC is envisaged as acting as a conduit for the exchange of information and views between the community, the council and other representative bodies on issues affecting the lives of older people, defined as those over 55.

The committee would be made up of between eight and 10 residents, as well as umbrella organisations such as Hackney Connect and Age UK, with an annual renewal of its membership to enable as many residents as possible to participate.

The council’s mayoral adviser for older people, Cllr Yvonne Maxwell, said: “This is about having the voice of older people at the heart of all we do. Older people need to be part of everything we are doing.

“The idea is it represents an advocate for older people in the community, and it will be very much themed. We don’t want a meeting that’s just going through loads of points of order and actions, but looking at different things each time.

“As different strategies come up, like housing, we want older people to get in early, and be consulted and involved. That will help the further on consultation and coproduction.

“This committee’s primary aim will be to hold us to account. Officers will be asked to come to that meeting, I would go to that meeting, and they would hold us to account that we are doing what we said we would do in the ageing well strategy.

“So of course they will be doing things like representing and advocating for older people, working with us around learning events and consultation, but primarily they are there to hold us to account that we are doing what we have promised to do.”

The Town Hall’s ageing well strategy sets out to tackle ageist stereotypes,  which includes a vision for people over 55 to have “as good a quality as life for as long as possible”.

The priorities for the strategy range from health, civic participation and housing to public spaces, transport, employment, and safety.

The Town Hall has pledged to use the strategy to build digital skills through buddy schemes, review the borough’s public realm furniture, support and promote volunteering, and create more age-friendly high streets by working with businesses.

The strategy aims to balance the need for services and specialist care for frail and vulnerable people, while recognising that many older people play an active and energetic role in the life of the borough and empowering them to keep doing so.

Maxwell has stressed that the plans have diversity at their heart, with the strategy serving, for instance, the needs of LGBT+ older people through the roll-out of staff training. The Town Hall is striving for the proposed committee to be reflective of the borough’s different communities.

Maxwell added: “What I’d really like to see is really strong intergenerational work across Hackney, where it’s seen as a case where we don’t have barriers, we don’t have two separate communities older and younger, but that people speak to each other and break down misapprehensions.

“Older people are part of the community and they should stay part of that community. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’m pushing at an open door. This is coming not just from older people but from the Young Futures Commission.

“My worry is that ageism can increase in something like a pandemic because it is seen as older people are vulnerable, and yes of course, but lots of people have vulnerabilities when it comes to Covid, but also lots of older people are out and about doing things, working, volunteering.”

If you’re interested in getting involved, you can call 0208 356 4979 or email policyprojects@hackney.gov.uk.

For more information on the council’s Ageing Well Strategy, head to hackney.gov.uk/ageing-well

If you have a family member, friend or neighbour who might be interested in reading Hackney’s Ageing Well Strategy, you can contact 0208 356 4979 or policyprojects@hackney.gov.uk to request a hard copy

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